High health care costs

I have been contemplating stating my displeasure regarding a recent health care experience I encountered, and after reading Froma Harrop’s column in your paper, my decision became easier.

A family member recently had the unfortunate need to seek medical care at a local orthopedic clinic due to a broken ankle. After the initial exam and required X-rays, it became necessary to fit an orthopedic device (walking cast). As usual, as do most people, I did not inquire about costs, even though I knew I would be paying out of pocket due to my high deductible insurance. Well, after receiving the bill for the usual exam fees, etc., I noted the cost of the device to be quite high. The charge was $465, although it was discounted down to $372 due to the contract agreement with my insurance company.

I did some investigating online and soon discovered the open market price for the identical make, model and manufacturer was as little as $60 and as high as $100. I swallowed hard, took my medicine for not doing my homework, and went through the same routine for a follow-up device; nothing more than a heavy fabric lace up sock (brace). I figured lightning could not strike twice in the same place, but I was incorrect. Upon receiving a bill for $148, which was discounted down from $185, I looked again at the open market info. Shocked to say the least! The identical device was readily available for as little as $20 or as high as $50. This prompted a letter to the clinic expressing my displeasure with the possibility of taking advantage of customers and/or insurance payers, or perhaps they were being gouged by their supplier and simply passing along their cost. No response was received.

Yes, they have to make a profit – but. Either way, it is beyond me why the insurance companies permit this. Surely they are somewhat aware of what the market price is for such devices.

It is no wonder insurance premiums are what they are, with the overall cost of health care spiraling out of control. As consumers, we must pay more attention to our health care costs, the same way we watch our expenditures for a car, TV, appliance, etc.

Larry Reed

Williamstown